I read with great interest a guest column in the October 22nd Winston-Salem Journal entitled “What McCrory has done for North Carolina.” You may read it here – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/maurice-atwood-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina/article_78cb1927-7292-5b7d-b24d-af306a621fb5.html.
If you can not find it there, then you may find it here – maurice-atwood_-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina-winston-salem-journal_-columnists
Ironically, while it was attributed to another writer, it actually was plagiarized from one of your postings on your personal website, specifically a “Stop the Spin” posting from September 4th found here, www.craighorn.com/?cat=3.
I have addressed the plagiarism that occurred there in one of my posts – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/10/22/about-that-guest-column-today-in-the-winston-salem-journal-concerning-intellectual-dishonesty/ , if you care to read.
However, since the points made in the guest column were yours and you make a claim that they are truth and factual, they need to be flushed out more clearly as they seem to be slanted to fit a narrative that you proffer in your reelection campaign.
If you are going to invoke Winston Churchill and “incontrovertible truth” then all false claims need to be ironed out.
First, I do want to say that it is ironic that you place Winston Churchill and the current GOP-led General Assembly in the same posting. They should never collide in the same conversation except as an exercise in contrast. The Voter ID law, HB2, and gerrymandered districts do not equate to the strength and integrity of a man who stared down Hitler.
Secondly, it is odd that Churchill’s home country actually has issued a travel advisory to North Carolina (last spring) in its objection to the discriminatory HB2 law.
But I digress.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated “in 2011, North Carolina overspent by $3 billion. Taxes on income, corporate income and gasoline were the highest in the Southeast. North Carolina could not borrow money. North Carolina owed the federal government billions of dollars primarily because of the unemployment benefits situation. In other words — North Carolina’s credit card was over the limit.”
Bev Perdue was governor then, but it might need to be pointed out that the power in state legislature was in the hands of the GOP, many of whom are still in office. Gov. Perdue had vetoed budgets before, but is it safe to say that the “overspending” was the Democrat’s fault? We were still coming out of the Great Recession. Obama was still in his first term and would barely lose NC in 2012 during his reelection.
And I will agree that the “tightening of the belt” has produced “results that have been effective.” Except, I would not claim that they are all that positive because there is much more to explain in relation to said effects.
So I would like to offer other considerations to a few points.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated, “North Carolina has reduced personal and corporate income taxes, which now are among the lowest in the Southeast;”
That’s true, except there is a reason for that. I wrote Sen. Jim Davis last summer about the very same thing, so I will repeat that because the lowering of taxes does not explain fully what happened to create the “surplus” in our state.
That “stronger, healthier economy” you refer to was built on many things that were actually deleterious to working North Carolinians. Think of the tax deductions and exemptions that were eliminated for many middle-class families. While the state could now claim to have “lowered” taxes, many families were actually giving more money to the state because they could not claim item deductions as they could in the past. Also, with the move to a consumer-driven economy newer taxes on goods and services (auto repairs, elimination of tax-free school supply weekends, etc.) has “burdened” the citizens.
And the last two years are the first in my teaching career that I had to pay the state taxes in April instead of receiving a refund.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated, “North Carolina has reduced and put a limit on the gasoline tax.”
And yet South Carolina’s is still much lower and it spends more on teacher salaries. Just ask York County how many of its teachers actually live in North Carolina.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated, “After getting its financial house in order, North Carolina has added more than $1 billion to education funding.”
First, the problem with the house is that one in four children in NC still live under or near the poverty level. Secondly, that increase in educational funding still does not bring us to pre-recession per-pupil expenditures. Again, allow me to repeat what I offered to Sen. Davis.
“Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession.
Here’s an analogy. Say in 2008, a school system in your district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s approximately 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2016, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to your claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly by about 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.
Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.”
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated, “Gov. McCrory met with teachers and superintendents from across the state. They told him their no. 1 priority was to raise the pay of teachers — starting with the newest teachers.”
I don’t remember that conversation. But the fact that you state that salary increases started with the newest teachers actually helps me to explain how another point you make is not the entire “incontrovertible” truth.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated that the governor and General Assembly “Implemented the largest pay increase for teachers in the entire nation.”
Actually it should say the largest AVERAGE pay increase. This is an old argument that has clearly been debunked, but I will repeat what I offered to Phil Kirk, Chairman Emeritus of the State Board. I said,
“Saying that North Carolina raised teacher salaries more than any other state in the nation in 2014 is misleading. One can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. One would then only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which all veteran teachers no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.
I invite you to read James Hogan’s recent posting about teacher pay on his blog entitled “No, NC Republicans Have Not Fixed Teacher Pay” (http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2016/09/no-nc-republicans-havent-fixed-teacher.html ). It’s devastatingly accurate and it doesn’t even talk about the removal of longevity pay.”
Actual and average are two very different things. And James Hogan is a wickedly logical individual and a damn fine original writer.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated that the governor and the General Assembly “Firmed up the benefit package for teachers so that it is now worth approximately $16,000 a year for every teacher in the state.”
There’s a fuzzy word there – “approximately.” Not every teacher takes the benefits packages that are offered by the state. Because of teacher salaries not being enough for raising families in many cases, teachers like myself live in a two/three income family. The “benefits” for health coverage may be taken from a spouse’s employer, but to say that the benefits for teachers are better now than in the past because you put a dollar amount on it is rather weak.
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated that the governor and the General Assembly “Created additional income opportunities for our teachers so they do not have to leave the classroom to enhance their income or further their careers.”
Actually, this is another term for merit pay. Allow me to refer to a letter I wrote to Rep. Skip Stam, who is very much in favor for merit pay
“The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. That is antithetical to the premise of public education. Not only does it force teachers to work against each other, it fosters an atmosphere of exclusivity and disrespect. What could be more detrimental to our students?
Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick.
Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?
Besides, if you think merit pay is effective, then I would question your willingness to fund that merit pay. Anyone who has taught in North Carolina for an extended period of time remembers that we had the ABC’s in effect for years which gave teachers/schools bonuses based on scores. One problem with that model (and you stated it in the interview) was that it pitted teachers against each other. Another problem that you did not mention is that Raleigh decided not to fund it any longer.”
How about reinstitute graduate degree pay bumps? That helped a lot of teachers become better at what they do. And considering the removal of caps for class size in most grades, changes to block scheduling, and the fact that teachers do more now because of administrative duties and fewer assistants, do teachers not already qualify for that “merit pay?”
- The guest columnist (actually you) stated, “The online, personal finance blog, “WalletHub,” has moved North Carolina into the top 20 in the nation for education and security.”
Is this the same WalletHub that ranked North Carolina 44th in “Best & Worst States For Teachers”? Yes, it is (https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/). The reference in the guest column was that NC was in the top 20 in the nation for education and security.
What that means is that teachers in NC are incredible despite what the state has done to them in the last four years. But NC may be in for a rude awakening if it can’t keep those very teachers.
The rest of the guest columnist’s argument talks of what might happen if McCrory and company are allowed to continue their work if reelected. All of that remains to be seen.
Truth is a funny word. If it is really incontrovertible, then I guess we will see in the near future.
I look forward to reading more of your “truths” in the future.